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Scarsdale School Board Looks At Future Tech Needs

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – The Scarsdale Board of Education got a tour of the past, present and future of technology Monday night as the school district's director of technology, Gerald Crisci, presented a look at where Scarsdale schools have been, where they are and where they will need to go.

Dovetailing with Crisci's show was Assistant Superintendent Linda Purvis's assessment of what the district will need to do to stay abreast of the technological advances and the way they are changing education.

Crisci set the stage by pointing out that students have gone from using classroom computers to laptops and personal communication devices to connect with information sources, teachers and other students from virtually anywhere. He also cited videoconferencing, administrative streamlining – including putting things like high school transcripts and progress reports online – the addition of smart boards, audio-visual components and mobile technical capabilities as just some of the advances the district has made.

Advances have been made in the middle and elementary schools as well as the high school. The board was shown a video public service announcement put together by fifth-graders at Fox Meadow Elementary, from conception to realization, including video editing, music underscore and voiceover. Also shown was how middle school students are using advanced software to compose and arrange music, and to record original performances.

Crisci said later in response to board questions that he expects all textbooks to be online within three years, with students carrying tablets instead of book bags. "I think it will take a while for publishers to take advantage of available technology" to make the books interactive, he said, but text will be online relatively soon.

That set the stage for Purvis, who laid out the challenges Scarsdale faces to continue to take advantage of emerging technology in uncertain economic times and facing the state's new tax levy cap.

Purvis pointed out that Scarsdale's nine school buildings average 75 years old and that many are in need of infrastructure updates.

"We have no choice but to take care of immediate needs," she said, listing emergency repairs, compromised infrastructure and health and safety issues. After those expenses, she said improvements need to be made, including bringing buildings up to current codes, making them handicap-accessible, expanding for enrollment jumps and improving energy efficiency.

Superintendent Michael McGill pointed out that the high school library is usually "choc-a-block full practically every period," and that the cafeteria cannot accommodate the school population. Meanwhile, the school has an auto shop that is no longer used and he suggested it might be converted into an Internet café that could take some of the stress off the other facilities.

Board members roundly praised the presenters and offered support for beginning to plan ahead and reimagine the schools.

"We can't be shy when looking forward," said Elizabeth Guggenheimer, vice president of the board, adding that the district would need to move forward with plans "so we're not always trying to catch up."

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